Occasional anxiety is a normal part of life. In fact, anxiety is a healthy biological response to perceived danger. However, experiencing anxiety consistently, such as irrational dread of everyday situations, may be an indication of an anxiety disorder.
If you are one of 40 million Americans currently experiencing anxiety disorder, you may be in search of an effective remedy without harsh side effects. With all the recent buzz around CBD, it’s hard to find an ailment that somebody’s not claiming it’s good for. But what’s the truth? Could CBD for anxiety really help?
CBD, also known as cannabidiol, has gained recent notoriety for its efficacy in providing relief from a number of ailments. Since CBD is non-psychoactive, its use is more accepted than that of medical marijuana.
CBD has already been approved by the FDA for the treatment of epilepsy and ample scientific evidence supports its use for a variety of other conditions. While some companies have made claims that are not scientifically validated, many of CBD’s purported benefits are supported by emerging research.
CBD for anxiety is one of them. So far, the research supports using CBD for anxiety. All the details are in this article.
CBD for Anxiety at a Glance
- Claim: CBD can reduce or eliminate the symptoms of anxiety disorder.
- What the research shows: The research overwhelmingly supports that CBD for anxiety is effective. Researchers also noted the need for more studies on the exact mechanisms of CBD’s anti-anxiety effects and studies determining its exact dosage.
- All the facts: Research thus far has shown CBD for anxiety to be effective. While more studies are needed to determine exact dosage and discover its exact mechanisms, CBD for anxiety may be a viable option with fewer side effects than pharmaceutical medications.
Anxiety disorders consist of consistent, excessive, and persistent worry and fear about everyday situations. These feelings are difficult to control and often interfere with daily life. As such, anxiety disorders can be quite debilitating. Anxiety disorders are one of the most common psychiatric disorders in the world, with one in thirteen people experiencing anxiety globally.
The term “anxiety disorder” actually refers to a group of psychiatric disorders with similar characteristics. These include:
- Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Panic Disorder and Panic Attacks
- Social Anxiety Disorder
- Selective Mutism
- Separation Anxiety
- Specific Phobias
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder are also closely related to anxiety.
What is the difference between ordinary anxiety and an anxiety disorder? There are a few indicators. First, look at the source of the anxiety: important life events such as a job interview, a possible breakup, trouble paying bills, health issues, or truly dangerous situations can all produce normal anxiety. However, if the source of anxiety is an everyday situation or if the worry revolves around an unsubstantiated situation, it could indicate anxiety disorder.
Likewise, irrational fear of a situation or object that poses no real threat, recurring fear of having a panic attack, or constant worry that interferes with daily life could all indicate an anxiety disorder.
Risk factors for anxiety disorder include trauma, stress due to an illness, stress buildup, other mental health disorders, having blood relatives with anxiety disorder, and misuse of drugs or alcohol. While anxiety is highly treatable, only one third of people with anxiety receive treatment.
Symptoms of anxiety disorder vary by the specific type of disorder, but they can include:
- Feeling restless or on-edge
- Being easily fatigued
- Difficulty concentrating
- Muscle tension
- Trouble sleeping
- Accelerated heartbeat, heart palpitations
- Trembling or shaking
- Feeling of impending doom or of being out of control
- Excessive or irrational fear of encountering an everyday situation
Common Anxiety Treatments
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a common treatment for anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, CBT is a method of teaching people different ways of thinking, behaving, and reacting to situations that produce anxiety.
Exposure Therapy, which “focuses on confronting the fears underlying an anxiety disorder to help people engage in activities they have been avoiding,” is also sometimes used.
Medications are often used to treat anxiety. Some of the most common are benzodiazepines, SSRIs, and MAOIs.
Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed to treat anxiety disorders. However, patients are often not informed of the sometimes horrific side-effects, their highly-addictive properties, and the dangers of quitting cold-turkey. Some of the comparatively minor side effects include lightheadedness, confusion, dizziness, slurred speech, memory problems, blurred vision, headaches, tremors, low blood pressure, and incontinence.
Antidepressants are also commonly prescribed for anxiety. SSRIs, SNRIs, and MAOIs are several classes of drugs which are often prescribed. However, each of these has a long list of possible side-effects as well. The side effects can include suicidal thoughts, nausea and weight gain, diarrhea, sexual problems, unusual changes in behavior or mood, acting aggressively, and even (ironically) anxiety or panic attacks. Sometimes it takes experimenting with several drugs to find one that is effective.
Though many people have found medications to be effective, others find the side effects are unacceptable. Thus, many are looking for a remedy that is both effective and free of harmful side-effects.
Some do-it-yourself remedies include meditation, breathing practices, yoga, and exercise. While these won’t necessarily replace clinical treatment, they can certainly offer some benefits and are unlikely to be harmful. That is, they’re worth a try.
Many people with anxiety need effective treatment but want to avoid the side effects of pharmaceuticals. Sometimes, therapy and home remedies aren’t enough. Could CBD help?
Using CBD for Anxiety
CBD may be able to help relieve the symptoms of anxiety conditions. In fact, medical research is showing great promise for CBD for anxiety.
CBD works through our body’s endocannabinoid system. This system is responsible for helping the body maintain homeostasis, or a healthy inner balance, and maintaining biological functions. All vertebrates have an endocannabinoid system.
CBD’s anxiety-calming effects are only some of the many ways it can work through the endocannabinoid system, which include supporting healthy sleep, relieving inflammation, maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, and stopping seizures.
Research is telling us that CBD for anxiety may be an effective way to relieve the symptoms of anxiety disorder. Let’s take a deeper look at the studies.
Medical Studies on CBD for Anxiety
Ample scientific evidence supports the use of CBD for anxiety. Here are a few examples.
As early as 2012, a review of existing literature concluded that CBD has anxiolytic (anti-anxiety) effects. The authors stated, “Studies using animal models of anxiety and involving healthy [human] volunteers clearly suggest an anxiolytic-like effect of CBD. Moreover, CBD was shown to reduce anxiety in patients with social anxiety disorder.” The authors noted that clinical trials are necessary to determine the “adequate therapeutic window” and the precise mechanisms of CBD’s anxiolytic effects.
Two years later, another study of the same type came to the same conclusion regarding CBD’s anti-anxiety effects.
A case study that involved a ten-year-old girl with post-traumatic stress disorder concluded that CBD was more effective than pharmaceutical medications at relieving anxiety. While the pharmaceuticals provided partial relief that was not long-lasting, “a trial of cannabidiol oil resulted in a maintained decrease in anxiety and a steady improvement in the quality and quantity of the patient’s sleep.” The authors concluded, “This case study provides clinical data that support the use of cannabidiol oil as a safe treatment for reducing anxiety and improving sleep in a young girl with posttraumatic stress disorder.”
A study of people with social phobia during a public speaking test showed that CBD decreased anxiety. Participants who received CBD had fewer and decreased symptoms of anxiety versus a placebo group.
Other studies focused on the endocannabinoid system’s role in regulating stress and anxiety, concluding that it is indeed involved in anxiety. This suggests CBD, which works through our body’s endocannabinoid system, could be effective in addressing anxiety.
Overall, while most of the research supports using CBD for anxiety, many of the studies note a need for a better understanding of the exact mechanisms of CBD’s anxiolytic effects. That is, we’re beginning to see that CBD relieves anxiety, but we don’t know exactly why. There have already been studies that have made strides in this direction.
Side-Effects of CBD
One of CBD’s often-cited benefits is its excellent safety profile. A 2017 review of the research confirmed its safety and noted that its mild side-effects were better than those of other drugs. A doctor at Harvard Medical School agrees, stating that CBD is safe and has only mild side effects. Those side effects that can occur are diarrhea, tiredness, and changes in appetite/weight.
However, if you are taking any other medications, it’s important to note that CBD may interact with them. It’s important to talk with your doctor or a pharmacist before trying CBD to make sure it’s right for you and that it won’t interact with any of your existing medications. However, overall, CBD is one of the safer remedies you could try.
Anxiety disorders can be debilitating. So far, research overwhelmingly supports that using CBD for anxiety is effective. This is good news for those suffering from anxiety, especially considering the adverse side-effects of most pharmaceutical medications commonly used to treat the disorder.
However, it’s important to remember that everybody is different and that research is still being done. If you are interested in trying CBD for anxiety, speak with your doctor to find out if it’s the best decision for you.